“Oh, you darling!” she murmured fondly. “But I won’t take it, Deb—I won’t. It would leave you poor for years, while I shall have heaps of everything—”
“If you don’t,” broke in Deb, tragically stern and determined—“if you don’t take it and buy your first clothes with it, I will never forgive you as long as I live. Child, don’t you see—?”
Rose saw this much—Deb’s horror of the thought of being beholden to the Breens for a post-nuptial trousseau. Reluctantly she pocketed the gift.
“But I shall never want it, you know.”
“I don’t care about that,” said Deb.
The bridegroom’s relief of mind when he saw the bride coming was so great as to do away with all the usual embarrassment of a man so circumstanced.
“Ha! now we are all right,” he said to Harry Simpson, cousin and best man; and forthwith acted as if the trouble were over instead of just beginning. There was nothing shoppy in his demeanour now, even to Deb’s prejudiced eye.
The sisters walked up the nave to the altar, hand in hand. Deb passed the bridesmaid, Alice Urquhart, without a look—her people had brought the young pair together, and were answerable for these consequences— and similarly ignored those walking fashion-plates, Mrs and Miss Breen. She landed her charge at the appointed hassock, and quietly facing the clergyman, stood still and dry-eyed amid the usual tearful flutter, apparently the calmest of the party. But poor Deb suffered pangs unspeakable, and her excessive dignity was maintained only by the sternest effort.
In the vestry, after the ceremony, she was introduced by the bride to her new relations; and Papa Breen, with a great show of magnanimity, expressed his satisfaction at seeing Miss Pennycuick “on this suspicious occasion”, and formally invited her to what he called “a little snack” at Menzies’, where a gorgeous wedding breakfast had been prepared at his orders.
“Thank you very much, Mr Breen,” she said affably. “It would have given me great pleasure, but if you will excuse me, I must run home to my other sisters, whom I left in ignorance of this—this event—which concerns them so nearly.”
“Oh, Deb, do come!” pleaded the bride.
No; the line had to be drawn somewhere. Deb was very kind, very polite, very plausible with her excuses; but to Menzies’ with those people and their white-horsed carriage she would not go.
Rose had never been reckoned a person of importance by her family, but now that she was gone, there remained a terrible emptiness where she had been. She was one of those unselfish, good-natured members of households to whom falls the stocking-mending, the errand-going, the fetching and carrying, the filling of gaps generally; and at every turn Deb and Frances missed her unobtrusive ministrations, which they had accepted as as much matters of course as the attentions of the butcher and baker. It was presently perceived that Keziah missed her too—that Keziah, who had loyally opposed the plebeian marriage, was become a turncoat and renegade, blessing where she should have cursed, blaming where she should have praised—yes, blaming even Queen Deborah, who, needless to say, took her head off for it.